The 2005 European Weightlifting Championships
April 19 – 25,
Andrew Charniga, Jr.
The 2005 European Championships for men and women was held at the Universiada Hall. This was the same venue for the 2000 Europeans and the 1986 World Championships. The facilities and organization were first class. The facility had undergone recent renovations which allowed for an expanded warm – up facility and the VIP seating section was eliminated so the spectators could be closer to the platform.
The competitions were well attended especially those sessions where Bulgaria had an entry. However, most interesting with respect to the spectators was the number of ex – champions in attendance. The newly elected president of the Bulgarian Weightlifting Federation is the 1972 Olympic Champion Andon Nikolov. Nikolov along with former world champion Stefan Botev (the new general secretary of the Bulgarian federation) were the meet organizers. The new coach of the national Bulgarian team is (former world champion) Neno Teziiski.
You would think that Sophia has become the Valhalla of weightlifting from the shear number of Bulgarian champions who either participated in the organization or were just there to watch: former national coach Ivan Abajaiev, Nedelchko Kolev, Yordan Mitkov, Gidikov, Zdravko Stoichkov, Yordan Bikov, Ivan Tchakarov, Petar Stefanov, Yanko Rusev, Nicolai Pechalov, Yoto Yotov, Kiril Kunev, Galabin Boevski, Norair Nurikyan, Alan Tsgayev, Georgi Markov, Georgi Gardev, Plamen Jeliazkov. There were so many champions in the hall at any given time you had to be careful not to stumble over one.
The training facilities were located at the Diana Hall. This training hall is famous for the number of Olympic and world champions who trained there under national coach Abajaiev. The weightlifting room had undergone recent renovations which included central heat, new lighting, new platforms, fresh water, etc. Even the equipment was new.
Turkey won the men’s team championships with their four champions passing on one or more of their clean and jerk attempts. Even in this type of format where simply lifting more weight than one’s competitors determines the individual championships; generally the best teams have a higher success ratio of platform attempts, especially in the clean and jerk.
Table 1. Classification of Men’s Teams
Team & Place # athletes %Snatch
Success Overall Rate #Lifters
3 C&J Bomb outs
1. Turkey 8 70% 83% 76% 4* / 1 1
2. Bulgaria 8 54% 50% 60% 2 0
3. Russia 7 57% 62% 61% 2 0
4. Poland 8 53% 47% 67% 1 0
5. Belarus 6 55% 67% 61% 1 0
6. Spain 7 57% 67% 62% 1 0
*Four lifters stopped after their first C & J.
Table 2. Classification of Women’s Teams
Team & Place # athletes %Snatch
Success Overall Rate #Lifters
3 C&J Bomb outs
1. Russia 7 70% 65% 65% 2 0
2. Poland 7 57% 80% 67% 2 0
3. Bulgaria 7 70% 65% 65% 1 0
4. Ukraine 6 51% 38% 47% 0 0
5. Greece 7 52% 38% 45% 1 0
6.Spain 6 52% 38% 50% 0 0
This being the year following the Olympics there were fewer participants (109 males – 30 countries, 76 females – 19 countries) reflecting partly a lack of funds to travel and house athletes. For instance, the German team had only two males and no female lifters. Some teams like the Bulgarian team consisted primarily of juniors. Only a hand – full of Athens medalists entered. Most notably, Halil Mutlu and Taner Sagir (both TUR) both placed first easily and passed on final attempts in the clean and jerk.
Both Sagir and Mutlu appeared to be in good form. They both made the same tactical decision to do enough to win, then retire. For instance, in the 77 kg class Sagir elected to take 162.5 on a second attempt in the snatch after both he and Sebastian Dogariu (ROM) snatch 160. Sagir made his 162.5 and Dogariu missed. Having first secured the lead, Sagir proceeded to 167.5 kg, which he made easily. He was able to effectively put the Romanian away with his first attempt in the C & J with 192.5 and retire.
When asked about Mutlu’s chances to win a fourth gold medal in Beijing, Ivan Abajaiev said that it is possible for him to win a fourth; but, only if he competes at the two major events each year (the European and World Championships) leading up to the Olympics.
Overall the majority of the lifters appeared to be in good form and had trained hard for this competition. Even the heavyweights like Sudas (TUR), Rohde (GER), Dolega and Najdek (both POL) were training hard twice a day up to two days before the competition.
Many of the former east – bloc professionals were back in the gym the day after their competition and every day after that.
Bulgarian junior Fikretov (69 kg) was training at 9:00 AM the day following his competition. His first exercise was front squat with 180 kg (like a cup of coffee so to speak); this was followed by a fairly hard workout of snatch and clean and jerk. The next day at the same time he began with a 200 kg front squat (two cups of coffee) and followed this with another workout of snatch and clean and jerk.
The Russian Junior 75 kg Podobedova did a lengthy training session the day after her competition including a back squat of 160 kg x 3x 5. The level of conditioning of these athletes who are training virtually everyday, including multiple workouts per day, is quite high.
The Potential Affect of the Training and Technique on the Results and Injuries
As you can see from the table the success rate of competition attempts for even the top teams was not very high. Without a doubt there are a number of reasons for the relatively low success rate of competition attempts, but exercise selection and technique come to mind as having the most significant effect on success rate on the platform. Many of the lifters were doing pulls up to the competition and the Russians in particular were doing a fair amount of pressing exercises. This despite the fact that these movements have little in common with coordination structure of the competition exercises with 90% and above weights.
Most of the Russian lifters had a lot muscle mass in the arms and shoulders; especially the women. Several of these lifters performed pulls which looked nothing like the pull of a squat snatch or a squat clean. Other exercises like push presses which are associated with the worst motor habits with respect to the technique of the jerk were done in the final workouts.
Another silly movement the Russian girls did was to begin the snatch exercise by lifting the weight off the floor as if to snatch it then essentially do a muscle snatch with the arms and shoulders. They sort of performed a rowing motion to “muscle” the barbell up as they finished straightening the body and then squatted under the weight. Podobedova performed this movement to begin her snatch workouts. She made only her opener with 115 kg in the competition.
A number of competition attempts were missed due to elementary technical errors. For instance, cleans or snatches were missed because the beginning of the barbell’s trajectory was vertical or vertical – forward instead of in a curve towards the athlete’s body. Lifters lost jerks forward because they began to bend for the half squat with their balance slightly forward or shifted the barbell too far forward during the bend; which would result in the barbell moving at an angle in front of the lifter to arms length, only to be dropped.
All of Cholokov’s (BUL 105 kg+) lifts were forward; not from what appeared to be a forward barbell trajectory but a lack of some visual focus point. He seemed to simply lose his balance on the raised platform in the high ceiling of the arena.
A Russian lifter (Yarkin 105 kg) injured his elbow while straining to hold a jerk. He suffered a serious “snatch” injury in the clean and jerk because he shifted his grasp to a wide hand – spacing after the clean. The lifter’s little fingers were at or past the snatch marking on the bar. Apparently, the idea is to decrease the lifting distance with the wide hand spacing. The overcoming force needed to lift the barbell remains the same; so, all you’ve done is shift the stress from one set of joints and muscles to another.
Unless the athlete has a problem with mobility in the shoulders or some other problem necessitating a wide – hand – spacing for the jerk, a wide – hand -spacing is at best a waste of effort and at worst an injury waiting to happen.
Of Wolves and Dogs
“Food is Food”
When you are able to witness first hand the extraordinary hard work and dedication required to be a champion in weightlifting today it is obvious that genetics and talent alone are simply not enough. You have to live the life of training almost non – stop. Furthermore, first and foremost you have to learn to accept the considerable physical discomfort that comes from the hard muscular work and the no less uncomfortable, psychological monotony which accompanies the constant training; with what are essentially the same exercises repeated over and over again.
That being said little wonder when you are about to go to dinner and your world champion host says it does not make any difference which restaurant you choose because “food is food”.
When a weightlifter makes that choice to live the aforementioned life; he or she has made the choice is to become like a wolf and not a like house dog. A wild animal like a wolf is stronger than a domesticated house dog even though the domesticated dog may be larger and have bigger muscles. The reason being that a wild animal has to be able to use its strength, particularly speed strength; and, at a moment’s notice to be able to defend itself from predators or catch and kill another animal for subsistence. The same wild animal by the very nature of its existence is leaner and at best sleeps with “one eye open”. This animal is always ready to quickly run or fight. This animal’s nervous and endocrine systems are ratcheted – up to a higher level out of life – preserving necessity.
On the other hand, a domesticated house dog can sleep all day or night if it so chooses; special food is provided and this animal is given the luxury of acquiring unnecessary body fat. There is no life – preserving need for this animal’s nervous and endocrine systems to function at a high level because there is no daily threat of “fight or flight”. Food is not just food, and it is provided to the domesticated beast with little or no energy expended to obtain it.
A weightlifter who virtually lives in his or her sweat clothes and weightlifting shoes has accepted a higher calling in life to “suffer” for success. Food for instance, one of life’s pleasures, can never have a significant place in this “animal” life. Food is for subsistence, for survival in the gym and on the platform.
On the other hand ask a Frenchman or an Italian if “food is food”. Despite the fact that one sees that representatives from these two countries are good enough athletes to become champions it is highly unlikely they will produce anyone of note. French and Italian food is too good. They are highly unlikely to give up the comfortable “domesticated life” to become a wolf.